Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Abandoned Places: Teufelsberg

Teufelsberg, or Devil's Mountain, was made from the ruins of Berlin. Literally. It is one of several mounds in Europe created after World War II from the rubble of destruction. What makes Devil's Mountain unique is that its site was chosen because of what's buried beneath it: Wehrtechnishe Fakultat, a Nazi military college that was never completed. At the end of the war, the Allies attempted to blow it up, but they found that the structure was so well built that it was easier to just bury it. By the time they closed the area to debris disposal in 1972, it was the highest point in West Berlin: 394 feet.

During the 60s, the NSA built one of its largest listening stations atop "The Hill," as it came to be known by the Americans who worked there.
There are rumors that Americans excavated shafts down into the ruins under the mound, but that has never been confirmed. The listening station was decommissioned in the 90s when the Berlin Wall fell. Although the equipment has been removed, the buildings and radar domes remain. Even though it's been fenced off and is actually guarded, the structures have been heavily vandalized.
The following photos are by Liam Davies and used under the linked license.

Also going back to World War II, your bonus photos today are from Torpedowaffenplatz Hexengrund, Nazi torpedo testing station they built in Puck Bay in Poland after they occupied it. Although the Russians briefly occupied the base at the close of the war, the facility has been abandoned since 1945.

And one more! The abandoned Toronto Power Company Generating Station.
The following photos are courtesy of Opacity.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Abandoned Places: Shi Cheng, the Sunken City

Shi Cheng, or Lion City, was founded nearly 1500 years ago and was once the probable center of commerce and politics for its district. Information about Lion City, beyond that, is somewhat sketchy (and here's a sketch of what the city may have once looked like):
In 1959, the valley in which Shi Cheng was located was flooded for the Xin'an River Dam Project, creating Qiandao Lake. As far as I can tell, the abandoned city was not discovered until after it was flooded and submerged during the creation of the lake. Or, maybe, the Chinese government knew it was there and just didn't care. They did dislocate about 300,000 people for the project. At any rate, the once prosperous city now lies at the bottom of the lake.

As an added bonus, here some pictures of the Sutro Baths, built in San Francisco in the 1890s as the world's largest indoor swimming pool complex. The baths operated through the 1960s when they were finally closed for financial reasons. Shortly after closing, a fired destroyed the building.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Abandoned Places: Renwick Smallpox Hospital

A couple of weeks ago, one of my boys had strep throat. We don't tend to give much thought to how serious strep actually is anymore because it's so easily treated. Seriously, antibiotics knock that sucker right out, but untreated it can lead to rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, and toxic shock syndrome (which is fatal), among a few other things. It's nasty stuff, and, as a father, I am entirely grateful to medical science that has allowed us things such as antibiotics.

And a vaccination against smallpox. I think we have a disconnect about how horrible smallpox was and why there was a need for special hospitals just for smallpox victims. At one time, over 80% of children infected with smallpox died. Just in the 20th century (and that wasn't that long ago), up to 500,000,000 (yes, 500 million) people died from smallpox, most of them children.

Renwick Smallpox Hospital (named for the original architect, James Renwick, Jr.) opened in the remote Blackwell's Island area of New York City in 1856. However, the area became a nesting ground for other publicly supported institutions (like a prison and an insane asylum) and became too crowded for a smallpox facility. By 1886, all of the smallpox patients had been shifted to North Brother Island and the hospital had gone to other uses.

By the 1950s, the structures in the area, including Renwick Hospital, were closed down due to being obsolete, and the entire area fell into disrepair. However, in the 1970s the island was renamed Roosevelt Island (from Welfare Island, as it had come to be known), and Renwick became New York's only landmarked ruin after it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. There has been talk of taking steps to restore and preserve the building since the mid-70s but, so far, no significant action has been taken. Only the outer walls and some of the flooring remain.

Here are some bonus photos of the abandoned Rochester Subway, also in New York:
All photos except the first one courtesy of Opacity.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Abandoned Places: Qasr el Baron

Modeled after the Angkor Wat, the Qasr el Baron, or Baron Empain Palace, took four years to build. It was finished in 1911 in the Heliopolis district of Cairo and has a troubled, if not sinister, history. In fact, the palace was built by the guy who founded Heliopolis, Belgian millionaire Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain. The house was surrounded by gardens and terraces within which hid erotic statues. The main tower is said to have been built on a revolving base to provide a 360 degree view and constant sunlight into the Baron's room. There's also a rumored secret tunnel to the nearby basilica, somewhat at odds with the whispers of Satan worship and orgies that went on during the years Baron Empain  was in residence.

The Baron's wife, scorned by the Baron's affairs, is said to have thrown herself down the stairwell of the revolving tower.
His daughter, Miriam, suffered from psychological issues and would sequester herself in the basement rooms when she was in a bad mood. It was there she was found dead. Murder or suicide? No one knows.

The Baron returned to Belgium at the beginning of World War I and never returned to the house. It's said that there was a mirrored chamber in the basement rooms, possibly the same room Miriam was found in, and, upon the Baron's death in 1929, the mirrors ran with blood and were permanently stained red.

The Baron's son moved in for a while after the Baron's death, but it was a fairly short tenure. It had been abandoned, looted (including any mirrors), and vandalized by the 50s. In 2005, the Egyptian government bought the property and began plans to restore it. It was briefly opened to the public but, after only two months, was closed again and never re-opened. No explanation has ever been given.
All but the first and last pictures are by Hossam el-Hamalawy and used under the linked license.

As an added bonus, here are some pictures of some abandoned quarries:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Abandoned Places: Pripyat

Pripyat was founded in February of 1970 as a housing development for the workers of Chernobyl, which went into construction at the same time. The city was laid out on a brand new triangular layout, unique at that time, although it became very popular  in Russian cities for a while. By 1979, two years after Chernobyl had become operational, it was finally declared a city. In 1986, the population just shy of 50,000 people, an explosion occurred at Chernobyl sending a plume of radioactive gas into the atmosphere over Pripyat. The entire population was evacuated in two days. Ultimately, more than 350,000 people were evacuated from the fallout zone. One interesting fact: Russia had originally wanted to build Chernobyl just outside of Kiev, but the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences protested.

There is a plan to have Pripyat cleaned of radioactivity by 2065.

The following photos are used by permission from www.pripyat.com:
A radiation warning sign.
The consumer center.
The Prometeus Cinema.
Stained glass in a cafe window.

The following photos are used by permission from http://www.justwalkedby.com/: